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Other Games – Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game Review

by on December 18, 2015

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“Edith, I’m going to tell you this one more time. When we get in there, there’s probably going to be swarms of rats and bats and who knows what else trying to crawl up our chutes and crevices.”

The Dwarf stomped forward towards the sewer entrance, heedless of the mud he splashed onto his companion’s scarlet robes. She wrinkled her nose in distaste.

“I know, Tognus. This isn’t my first time outside of the College.”

“Hmph. We’ll see. I’m just saying, when you spot the first beastie headed our way, don’t get twitchy and start shooting off fireballs if I’m anywhere in the area. I don’t want the hair on my cheeks singed off for nothin’.”

Tognus didn’t wait for the wizard’s response before stepping heedlessly into the dark.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Edith said wryly. 

She contemplated turning her companion into a walking torch for a moment, then followed several steps behind, chuckling at the thought.

While I don’t often spend much time talking about other games on this site, there are certain exceptions that arise every now and then. From the moment I first heard the Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game announced at Gen Con, I was stirred into a frenzy of excitement. I’ve said in some other places that there are two separate eras to my “career” in the gaming hobby. As a pre-teen and teenager, I dabbled in all kinds of board games and CCG’s, but then fell out of gaming for a long period of time during my twenties, only to pick it up once against thanks to a little game called The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The Warhammer Quest board game is one from my youth that I have extremely fond memories of, as I would craft and experience adventures for my characters, even when other people weren’t available for a game. I’ve long wanted a rebirth of this game, but when I heard that it was coming back in card form, I was actually even more excited. As a busy parent with not much free gaming time on my hands (and what little there is dedicated mostly to LOTR LCG), it is much easier to set up and play a card game than a huge board game with tiles and tokens and miniatures, no matter how much I yearn for such things. Now that the Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game has been released, however, and I’ve gotten my hands on a copy and a few plays in, it’s time to find out if my high expectations were satisfied, or if I was left pining for the glory days. Read on to find out!

Note: Since I’m writing for a certain audience, namely LOTR LCG players, I am going to be tailoring my review mainly for that audience. This means I am going to be placing a special focus on solo suitability, setup time, deck building, and other concerns that LOTR players would most be worried about.

Overview

I won’t try to recapitulate the rules of Warhammer Quest wholesale, and you can easily look them over here. However, it is worthwhile to give a short overview of the game so that readers can get a quick sense of what kind of game this really is and seeks to be. Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Game wants to replicate the feel of heroes taking on a classic dungeon dive, battling enemies, pushing further into the dark, and finding treasure. It can be played by 1-4 players. Each player chooses a hero, selecting from classic types like Dwarf, Wizard, Warrior Priest (Cleric), and Elf. With your hero, you get a set of 4 action cards. Each hero gets the same action cards: Attack (just like it sounds), Rest (heal wounds), Aid (give help to other players’ actions), and Explore (put progress on the location and find cool stuff). However, each hero type’s actions have slightly different supplementary effects and effectiveness. The Bright Wizard, for example, can take on extra damage to enhance the actions (playing with fire…get it? get it?), while the tough Dwarf gets extra defense while taking a Rest action.

Unlike LOTR LCG, that’s pretty much it when it comes to your hero. There is no deck to build, no cards to play. Instead, each turn (activation) of your hero allows you to pick one of the actions, which then becomes exhausted. It won’t be ready to use again until it is readied through another action’s effect, or by choosing the one action you have that allows you to ready all other actions (which action this is depends on hero type, one hero for example might have the Aid action ready all of their actions, while another might have the Rest action in that role). Playing the game then is largely about choosing the best actions, in the ideal order, but of course things get much more complicated than that. I did simplify a bit when saying that the four actions are all that determines your character. A big part of the appeal of this game will be the ability to “level up” your character by gaining improved versions of your actions, adding new equipment cards, finding items in the dungeon, and more.

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Your goal is to progress through locations by exploring, which puts progress on them. Eventually, you hope to finish the final objective of the particular quest you are playing, like killing a boss, for example. Along the way, you will be beset by enemies at each location, who will engage different heroes, and have their own unique effects. One thing is for certain, they will deal damage to you one way or another. And they stand in the way of your actions. Whenever you take an action, you not only roll white dice to determine your level of success, but roll a black die for each enemy engaged, which may cause them to attack you during your action or trigger some other nasty effect. The white dice will hopefully give you success icons for your action. Now it’s time to delve into the actual review.

Comparison with LOTR LCG

I’m going to get the inevitable comparison, the 800 pound Troll in the room, out of the way first. I know that foremost among many readers’ minds will be the question of how this game compares to our beloved LOTR LCG. There are certainly similarities. You are controlling heroes, or rather, a hero, fighting enemies, making progress on locations, dealing with enemy engagements, and there is even an area called the “shadows” that can roughly be thought of as the “staging area”.

Still, if you move past those basic mechanical and aesthetic similarities, it soon becomes obvious that these are very different games:

  • Deck Building: First off, to reiterate, there is no deck building in Warhammer Quest ACG. This is a bad thing if you are such a fan of deck building that it must absolutely be a part of every game you play. However, for many players I suspect that this lack of deck building is actually a positive. Some players love the theme and idea behind LOTR LCG, but don’t particularly enjoy building decks, especially when our beloved game admittedly often forces you to build decks to meet the specific challenges of a scenario. While deck building is certainly great fun for me personally, I can understand how it’s not everyone’s mug of ale, and the Warhammer Quest ACG is perfect for players who just want to get into the game without any pre-planning or building of decks beforehand. This is a game that you don’t have to worry about or do “work” for in between sessions. Even for someone who does enjoy deck building, I already have LOTR LCG and a few other games for that, and it’s certainly welcome to have a game that I can just pick up and play. For other experienced LOTR LCG players, I recommend that you think past deck building for a moment and consider the possibilities inherent in a game without that particular aspect.
  • Dice: Most games of this type require some type of random mechanic in order to add the unpredictability and element of uncertainty that is so key to suspense and thrilling moments. LOTR LCG achieves this completely with cards, with the reveal of a card from the encounter deck and the sudden surprise of a shadow effect serving this purpose. Warhammer Quest ACG, however, makes use of dice in addition to the random nature of certain decks, like a deck of enemies that is shuffled together or a deck of items and events that you might encounter in the dungeon. This choice makes perfect sense as it fits the original feel of the Warhammer Quest board game and just feels right for the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Not every player out there is a fan of dice, but this game is well designed enough that a single roll of the dice won’t destroy you or earn you victory either. Rather, a succession of choices throughout a game will lead you to that point. One of the best things I can say about this game is that when you lose, you feel like you earned that loss, and when you win, it’s because you played smartly. This is not to say that you might not get a game where your rolls are just terrible (in one memorable game, I rolled at least a Nemesis icon – a special icon that triggers a bad effect – or an enemy attack almost every time I took an action) and bad things can certainly come off of a deck, but you rarely feel like you simply got undercut by the game without any say in the matter.

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  • Party Size: In LOTR LCG, while heroes are usually the star of the show, success often depends upon mustering an army of allies. In Warhammer ACG, it’s all about the one hero you control. In this way, the scale is much different both in thematic and mechanical terms. While LOTR LCG represents the struggle of heroes to recruit allies against the Enemy, Warhammer ACG is more about the RPG experience of a small group of heroes facing off alone against the dangers of a dungeon. In game terms, this means that a winning strategy is not as much about building up a superior board state, as is the case in LOTR LCG and almost every LCG/CCG, but instead making the best use of what few resources you have (actions and equipment that is found). Improving your power is more something that happens from game to game, as you level up your character, rather than within a single game. However, exploring and finding helpful items can be a key part of winning. It’s just not something you have as much control over.
  • Threat vs. Peril: Both games use a mechanic to prevent players from stalling all day and to keep the pressure on. LOTR LCG uses the threat mechanic for this purpose. The Warhammer Quest ACG uses something called “peril”. This is a track that advances by 1 at the end of each turn. At certain points along this track, certain nasty effects are triggered. These effects change depending on the quest you are playing. For example, when the peril reaches a certain level, an enemy might pop out and attack. Threat is the perfect mechanic for LOTR, connected as it is with enemy engagement, encounter card effects, and player card effects. Peril, however, is a great solution for this game. Without it, it would be possible to simply sit back after each location is cleared of enemies and rest until all wounds are healed. Peril makes this impossible, as the effects force you to move quickly through a dungeon if you hope to succeed. The other interesting aspect of peril is that instead of simply dealing with a counter that counts down (or up), specific effects are tied to the increase in peril, and the severity of these effects tend to increase as well.
  • Campaign: As LOTR LCG players know, a campaign mode where players can “level up” their heroes and see them evolve through the inclusion of boons and burdens was only added with the release of the Saga Expansions focused on the events of The Lord of the Rings. This mode is innovative and addicting, but unfortunately it is still limited to those quests. Outside of these expansions, there are no real campaign modes to tie quests together in a way that somewhat mimics an RPG. Warhammer ACG, on the other hand, includes campaign rules as a normal part of playing the game. Of course, you can simply play a quest in isolation or undertake a “Delve” mode (where you play against a randomly generated dungeon), but a real lure of this game is being able to develop your characters, which was a key part of the original Warhammer Quest board game as well. You accomplish this by being able to “visit” certain shops between quests, which allows you to gain some gear, increase how much gear you can hold, and exchange one of your basic actions for a more advanced action. One fascinating point to note about the campaign is that even if you lose a scenario, you can still continue the campaign, but it may lead to a tougher road for you in the future.
  • Locations: One aspect of LOTR LCG that sometimes gets criticism is the abstract nature of locations and the fact that traveling to and exploring them doesn’t quite feel like traveling to and exploring them. In Warhammer ACG, you actually feel like you are at each location, as they essentially act as “quest cards”, since you must put progress on each location to advance to the next one. Each location spawns a new set of enemies and has its own unique effect while you are there.

“I don’t get it, Tognus. A sewer full of who knows what and there’s only two of us? Don’t you think we should’ve brought along a few more…friends?”

The Dwarf held up his axe as if to cut the wizard’s meddlesome words out of the air.

“If you want to share out the goods between every wannabe adventurer in these parts, be my guest. Actually, don’t. The less graspy hands around, the better.”

Edith shook her head in disgust.

“I thought we were doing this to help the city.”

“Sure we are. But if some coin falls into my pocket, I’m not gonna complain.”

“How in Sigmar’s name did I end up with you?”

Components

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The components are fairly standard Fantasy Flight Games fare. In the box, you get a couple of stacks of cards, including locations, enemies, dungeon events/items, gear, conditions, and heroes and their actions. Some of these cards are the standard card game size and others are the smaller board game size. There also is a set of black and white dice used to determine the success of the various actions. As is nearly obligatory with an FFG product, you get a set of tokens, in this case helping to keep track of wounds, progress, and success. Finally, there are large quest sheets that give you the setup details of each quest and also contain the peril tracker for that particular quest. If there is one part of this release that I can nitpick, it’s that compared to other card games at a similar price point, it feels like there are fewer actual cards. What is included is of high quality, however, and there’s certainly plenty of game here.

Solo Suitability

Many readers will have one burning question on their minds: How well does this hold up a solo experience? Through several years now of playing LOTR and experiencing other games with solo modes, I’ve found that there are several factors that are important to consider:

  • Setup Time: When I do have some free time to play a solo game, I can easily be dissuaded by the time it takes to setup a game. Eldritch Horror, for example, is a fantastic game and one of my favorite solo games, actually, but the setup time is long enough that it doesn’t hit the table as often as it should. There is some setup in Warhammer Quest ACG, mostly consisting of setting up randomized decks for locations, enemies, the dungeon, and gear. The setup time is roughly equivalent to that of LOTR LCG or something like the Pathfinder ACG. If you consider deck building to be a part of setup time, then Warhammer Quest ACG probably sets up more quickly than LOTR.
  • Table Space: Another consideration that might not seem obvious at first, but can definitely be a factor for solo players, is how much space a game takes up on one’s table. This can be an issue when you are trying to carve out space for a quick solo game, or need a game that you can easily leave set up somewhere (without taking up too much real estate) if you get interrupted. Warhammer Quest ACG is actually a great choice in this regard. As previously mentioned, as far as the cards you control, you only need space for a hero card (or two), four actions for each hero, and a few items you might pick up. Then you’ll need some room for a few enemy cards and various decks. Altogether, this doesn’t take up much space and you can probably squeeze a game into a few tight spots if you’re playing solo.
  • Mental Load: One problem that arises with a solo game is that many effects and triggers can exist on the board at the same time, increasing the mental load for the player, and ensuring that mistakes become basically inevitable. So far I’ve found this aspect to be minimized in Warhammer Quest ACG. This is largely due to the structure of each turn and the way the game works. There are only four phases of the game, and enemy effects take place during a defined phase all of their own. Basically how this works is that each enemy “activates” in turn, and when they do so, you simply follow a set of keywords/instructions from left to right that tell you exactly what the enemy does. Each enemy exhausts after this to help you keep track. This makes it much more difficult to forget about a certain effect and this game probably has one of the lightest mental loads among games of this type. I did forget to trigger location effects on a few occasions because I totally forgot about the location phase itself, but if you take your time and follow the turn sequence, this shouldn’t be an issue. Your heroes will take tons of wounds in solo play, so you can also make some mistakes if you’re not careful with your math, but it’s not a huge problem. This is decidedly an “un-fiddly” experience.

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  • Scaling: The issue of scaling can sometimes scuttle a solo game. Sometimes games are meant to work as solo experiences and cooperative experiences, but it’s just not as fun in the solo format. This could be because the game becomes too easy or too difficult with only player. Alternatively, it could be that interaction is a large part of the game and this is lost in the absence of other players. The latter is one of my knocks against a game like Pathfinder ACG, which I feel is more entertaining with other players than as a solo experience. I have yet to try Warhammer Quest ACG with other players, so I can’t give a fully-formed opinion on this matter, but I can say that solo scaling in mechanical terms seems to have definitely been taken into account. As a solo player, you are instructed to take control of two players, and each hero starts out with more hit points and the ability to activate twice per round, instead of just once. This allows you to have a similar chance as four players controlling four heroes that each get to activate only once per round.

The Dwarf pulled his axe out of the throat of the last goblin, a small pile of bodies bleeding at his feet. Edith leaned idly against a wall of the chamber, free of even the merest hint of sweat.

“You know, you might as well have come alone,” she remarked. “Why exactly did you ask me to come along?”

 As if on cue, there was the sound of many small feet scuffing against the stone. Tognus involuntarily took several steps back.

“That. That is why I brought you.”

 He looked back at her meaningfully.

“Rats?”

“Don’t just stand there. Get your fire ready! Do what you fire people do!”

“You want me to waste a spell on rats?”

The pack of squeaking rodents burst into the room from a small opening in the wall, a mass of writhing fur that headed straight for the Dwarf.

“I’m not touching them!” Tognus shouted. “And I’m not getting dirty, diseased rat blood on my axe!”

“Oh for Sigmar’s sake…” Edith muttered, as she began summoning the fire into her palm.

Theme

To get the obvious out of the way, this game is set in the Warhammer Fantasy world. In many ways, this world is much different than Tolkien’s Middle-earth. It tends to be more violent and darker, as the first quest sheet embodies when it describes a plague and a poor troupe that is burned alive because they were falsely blamed for carrying that plague. On the other hand, when comparing this game to LOTR LCG, we’re not talking about a dramatic shift from fantasy to spaceships or steampunk airships or something. This is still a fantasy adventure. I’m pretty familiar with the Warhammer Fantasy universe from my previous Warhammer Quest board game experience and from dabbling with the miniatures back in the nineties, but someone who doesn’t know the world too well might feel like the setting is simply generic fantasy without much depth or interest. Unfortunately, there is only so much flavor and story that a card game, any card game, can provide. Most of the enemies you fight will be faceless goblins and rats and bats without much depth or backstory (then again, did you really want to hear about Hank the Rat’s troubled childhood?). There are special “Nemesis” enemies that are a bit more fleshed out and unique, however. Altogether, as with other strong games of this type, the quality of the theme and stories that you make will depend on what you bring to it and the crazy gameplay moments that will suggest their own narrative.

Design

A game may have plenty of points in its favor, but it ultimately lives and dies on the strength of its core design. In this respect, I have to say that Warhammer Quest ACG is an extraordinarily well-designed game. In my book, one of the hardest goals to achieve is designing a game that achieves complexity through simplicity. This is the oft-repeated cliche of the game that “takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master”. I’m not prone to such hyperbole and I’ll need more time with the game to decide just how long this judgment holds up, but the deceptively simple action system actually leads to meaningful decisions almost every turn.

When I first got the game, read the rules, and played the first few turns of the tutorial, I worried the game would devolve into a simple matter of simply attacking over and over again to clear out a room, then moving onto a new location, resting as needed. Basically, it seemed that certain actions were more worthwhile than others, or at least would be consistently higher priorities. However, this turned out not to be the case. There are times when it makes more sense to push through and explore, both in order to try to grab needed items and to prevent the peril from outpacing your own progress. There also is a nice side benefit where enemies in the “shadows” (i.e. the “staging area” equivalent) are discarded if you move to the next location. So you can essentially run away from enemies. Other times, the aid action is key to make sure that some of the random nature of the dice is mitigated for another hero. Resting can also be key at times because wounds pile up quite quickly if you’re not careful.

The point is that this simple system leads to quite a bit of strategy. In this way, while Warhammer Quest ACG will be endlessly compared to LOTR LCG or even the Pathfinder ACG, I find it’s closest analogue to be Death Angel, the underrated little card game, also from FFG, that replicates another old Games Workshop board game: Space Hulk. That game also uses a set of action cards with differing effects based on the squad you choose. Warhammer Quest ACG has the advantage of being a bit deeper than that game and featuring a campaign/RPG-like experience. Of course, a game like LOTR that features player decks, a huge card pool, and dozens of card interactions in a single game is more complex. However, the relative simplicity of Warhammer Quest ACG should not be taken as the same as saying that it is “light” or devoid of meaningful choices.

The huge Orc stood before them, red war paint slashed across his green skin, two massive curved swords in each hand. Tognus motioned for Edith to stay behind him.

“Chivalrous at last?” she quipped.

“Not the time for jokes,” the Dwarf said curtly, advancing towards the Orc with a tight grip on his axe. 

The creature was nearly double his size.

“And not the time for chivalry either,” she replied.

Edith ran past him as he stared in disbelief and stood just out of the reach of the Orc. The creature immediately turned his attention to the squishy, unarmored wizard. He charged towards her with surprising speed, and it was all she could do to dart away from his grasp, thankful that she didn’t trip over her own robes. Just as it seemed as if she would be skewered on the Orc’s swords, her strategy paid off. Tognus buried his axe into the unprotected back of the dimwitted Orc, hewing again and again until it fell to the ground.

The Future

It has yet to be announced exactly what the future of the Warhammer Quest ACG will be, and whether or not we will definitively see expansions. To be clear, this is not a Living Card Game, rather it is a standalone game. However, the system clearly allows for all kinds of expansions in the future, if that is what FFG decides to do. Ultimately, this will likely depend on how well the game sells. I’m hoping for many expansions to come! The design certainly supports it, as you could add more actions for the heroes, different kinds of actions, new gear, new equipment, new places to visit between quests, new enemies, and more! I’m curious to see the kind of variations that are possible in the future.

Final Recommendation

To wrap this own little quest up, I give my full recommendation to this game for all LOTR players (and any non-LOTR players that happen to stumble upon this article). The one caveat is that if you really love deck building and want that feature in every game that you play, then this is not the game for you. Otherwise, though, I think LOTR players will appreciate this game as a change of pace and one that can satisfy the need for a fantasy RPG experience in card form. For that slot in my collection, this game replaces the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game completely. While I appreciate that particular game and it does have some good points and elements of strategy in its favor, ultimately it comes down too much to a matter of rolling dice over and over again to satisfy skill checks that are just numbers. Make no mistake, there is plenty of dice rolling in Warhammer Quest ACG, yet this is a game that has more strategy to sink my teeth into, and stories that I can weave from it, which usually is a vital piece of my enjoyment. Given my limited gaming time, this will likely fill the supplementary spot in my collection, and takes its place as my second game next to LOTR LCG.

Buy it, play it, and support it so we can get some expansions!

They emerged from the sewer covered in grime, blood, and unmentionable substances. Tognus settled heavily onto a nearby stone with a sigh, rubbing aches and pains and checking the bindings on a wound in his side. Edith remained standing, lines in her face that hadn’t been there before creasing her face.

“I’m going to burn them.”

“What?” the Dwarf said.

He turned back and caught her distant expression.

“Great, I’ve broken another one.”

“They’re definitely going to have to burn.”

“No, you’re not going to burn down the city or the townspeople or whatever mad scheme is…”

“The robes. I’m going straight home and burning them to a crisp.”

Tognus stared for several moments and then burst into a heavy laugh, its sounds echoing through the land around them. Edith didn’t join in, but a small smile did steal across her face.

“Ready for more then? After you’re done with the robe burning that is?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “Oh yes.”

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11 Comments
  1. I loved your review, but I loved the flavour text you gave it even more! I got this when it arrived at my FLGS and my feelings about it match yours to a ‘T’. I hope for more expansions but, having said that, I’m still working my way slowly through the first campaign.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thank you! I had a lot of fun making the flavour text. Those characters stick in my mind now when I play a Dwarf and Wizard!

  2. Jay Kiley permalink

    What a phenomenal writer you are! I already own the game, but just loved reading the review and the story snippets.

    I’d read a novel tht you wrote.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Thanks so much! Writing always come with doubt, so I appreciate the support! I’m actually working on my first novel at the moment. Hopefully it won’t take too to complete.

  3. davidjc permalink

    Thanks for the review, especially from the perspective of a LotR player. I have read multiple reviews, not that I need any convincing, as I’m just waiting for bookdepository to have in its catalogue (i checked at my flgs and they are having trouble getting it). Your flavour text is, as always, the best part. I am hoping for numerous add ons that can fit in the box – leading to lots of replayability in a single place – as it will be useful for work travel.

  4. The timing of this review is unfortunate. I’ve recently ‘rediscovered’ LOTR:LCG and the joy of playing it solo since it is rare I can get another player – I’m somehow overlooked its soloability when I first got it, and ignored it for far too long. And now not only do I find a game to compete with it (players on other sites/blogs/forums/whatever have already abandoned LOTR for this!), but you also mention Eldritch Horror as yet another excellent solo game. So in a matter of days since I started mass-consuming content from your site, I’m now buried in solo games 🙂

  5. Fantastic review – looks like a game I really want to play, especially like you description of ‘Mental Load’ – I don’t always want something as heavy as LOTR LCG and I’d like something that my wife and daughter could play with me. You should post this review on BoardGameGeek (if you haven’t done so already) – I think it would really help people who might be on the fence on this game. Thanks again!

  6. Sean permalink

    Do you know if anyone is putting together an OCTGN version? I wouldn’t mind scanning my cards to play on the computer.

  7. Got to play this yesterday and it’s just Descent mating with LOTR. Not a bad thing 🙂

  8. Great review! I’ve been having a rest from LOTRLCG and picked this game game up, for solo play as well as group play. I don’t think I’ll ever get to play LOTRLCG multiplayer, it requires just too much from my board gaming buddies, Warhammer Quest on the other hand is ideal for a quick multi player dungeon trawl! Player interaction is great, and brings the game to life for me. Setup is a breeze, I can be gaming in 5 or 6 minutes! 🙂 it may even rekindle my passion for LOTRLCG ,!!

  9. I have just purchased this game and I am so happy to find a review of it in the “Tales….”. Now I am absolutely sure the choice I made was right!

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